I weaken all men and women for hours each day.
I show you strange visions while you are away.
I take you by night, by day take you back.
None suffer to have me, but do from my lack.
What am I?
You and I have discussed sleep a tad here on L365 but today we’re going to get all kinds of crazy in-depth with it. Reason being is that it plays such an important role in achieving a limitless life.
It should be noted that this post is being written by a guy that hates sleep. I literally despise it. If I saw sleep on the street I’d probably kick him in the shin (and run away).
I’ve always considered sleep a waste of time. How am I suppose to get stuff done and straight dominate when I’m hibernating like a bear? There’s only 24 hours in a day to get everything done I want to get done and wasting 8 hours of it by sleeping doesn’t make a ton of sense to me.
If you’re like me you probably wear your lack of sleep like a badge of honor. We often brag about the lack of sleep we get. We’re just too important for it.
- We can’t waste our time sleeping right?
- I pulled an all-nighter to study for my test or get this work project done
- I only slept an hour but I feel great!
- I was out all night with so and so living it up
- Sleep is for the weak, I’m fine on just a few hours
- I’m just to busy to get the normal 8 hours
- I’ve got kids, I’ve got to do this first, I have to do that now
I’ve never really needed much sleep to get by. I could always tough it out on 4-5 hours, grab a cup of joe and carry on with my day pretty effectively. However, a few months ago I really hit a wall physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I was getting extremely exhausted just trying to get up the stairs. Writing articles and holding conversations were extremely difficult because I just couldn’t stay focused at all.
My moods were all over the place too. One minute I’d be full of energy, bouncing off walls, as happy as could be, and the next minute not necessarily depressed but more apathetic towards everything. Not to mention my MMMM HMMMMM drive was non-existent (I’ve said too much haven’t I?)
I was eating nearly perfectly, exercising consistently, practicing yoga and other forms of stress relief. The only thing I could relate my exhaustion to was the consistent lack of sleep that I was getting.
A good nights sleep is just as important as exercise and nutrition for building a Limitless body and mind. Making sleep a priority is a necessity for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being and that is precisely why this post was written.
HOW SLEEP WORKS
There are five sleep stages that your body goes through.
- Stage 1: Occurs when you are just beginning to drift off but can actually occur if you practice mediation, yoga, or other forms of relaxation. In this stage it may feel like you’re day dreaming. It usually lasts between 5 and 10 minutes.
- Stage 2: In this stage your body temperature and heart rate will begin to drop. This usually lasts 15 to 20 minutes.
- Stage 3: This is that twiner stage between light and deep sleep.
- Stage 4: This is very deep sleep that lasts anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes.
- REM sleep: This is the deepest type of sleep you can enter. The quality of sleep you get in this stage will often determine how well rested you are the next day. This is why some sleep hackers follow alternative sleep cycles that emphasize this REM sleep. It takes most of us 90 minutes to enter this sleep stage.
Most of us do not move through these sleep cycles in order and often times skip or jump around from one to the next. You can even move backwards going from stage 4 sleep back to stage 2 and so on.
YOUR INTERNAL CLOCK
According to Life Science our bodies have a system of biological clocks that control the daily rhythms of the body (known as circadian rhythms). These rhythms are found within your physical, mental, and behavioral processes over a 24-hour period.
This means that this rhythm or internal clock is partly responsible for your sleep behaviors, hormone production (more on this in a second and its relationship to sleep), appetite, mood, and a host of other things.
Cortisol is the hormone responsible for getting you out of bed in the morning. If all is well in your system this hormone begins to slow down function in the evening so that you can unwind and get to bed and increase in the morning so that you can wake up and start you day.
Cortisol should peak between the hours of 7 and 9am in most people and decrease between the hours of 8 and 11PM. What this tells us is that waking up around 6 or 9Am daily and getting to bed between 8 and 11PM daily is ideal for the best nights sleep (All about cortisol)
Melatonin is a hormone that you produce naturally in the pineal gland and is partly responsible for influencing sleep. During the day or when you are exposed to light your body reduces the amount of melatonin produced. In the evening or when you are not exposed to light the production of melatonin increases.
These two hormones are major players in how when you wake and go to bed and the quality of sleep you get.
WHY YOU NEED SLEEP
Sleep is extremely important not only for physical performance but also for mental and emotional performance. Every single physiological response in your body requires a certain amount of rest in order to run optimally.
I’m sure most of you have competed in a sporting event, had to take a test, or had to take part in some other physically or mental draining activity. If you’ve ever had to do these on a few days deprived of proper rest you probably know how difficult this can make them. Often resulting in a lack of concentration, fatigue (physical and mental), poor mood, and slower reaction times. It may have felt as if something was just “off” that day.
In order to feel “ON” (see what I did there) for days like this good consistent sleep is necessary.
Quality sleep can will help with:
- Physical and mental performance
- Problem solving
- Optimism/Positive outlook on life
Hibernating like a bear also helps to naturally release human growth hormone (HGH) which is a big player in muscle and cellular regeneration. This means that you’ll be recovering and repairing much more effciently.
Your immune system is working it’s hardest while you’re snoozing so a lack of sleep also contributes to a weakened immune system.This means that you are more prone to a virus, the sniffles, or bronchitis (and ain’t nobody got time for that).
Not that I ever get personal on this site (sarcasm at its greatest) but I’ve noticed that when I’m not sleeping well…or at all – I’m more prone to stress and anxiety. It feels like I’m less capable of dealing with life’s ups and downs and have a general feeling of apathy (the worst emotion in the world) towards everything.
At it’s worst I was sleeping on average of about three hours every night (2AM-5AM) consistently for almost a year. This could be classified as sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation can be both acute or chronic meaning that the effects of poor sleep can be felt very quickly or over an extended period.
Chronic sleep deprivation has been show to contribute to:
- Increased risks of depression
- Obesity/Weight gain
- Inflammation in the body
- The ability to handle the daily stress that you and I face everyday
- Physical performance
- Decreased sex drive
- Poor decision making
- Frequent colds or getting sick often
- Hormones thrown out of whack
It’s pretty easy to see just how important sleep is… so why aren’t we doing it consistently?
- Is it because you’re busy staying up late on Facebook
- Checking email
- Shift work
- Commitments to family/friends
- Watching television
- Doing nothing
Most of the reasons we stay up late or don’t sleep much are related to priorities and personal choices as opposed to any real commitments and “HAVE TO DO’s.”
Signs that you may be suffering from sleep deprivation include:
- Falling asleep SUPER fast (within minutes of getting in bed)
- Feeling the need to “catch up” on sleep often (especially weekends)
- Feeling tired after meals (this also may be related to food composition and how fast you eat).
- Struggling to get out of bed
- Exhausted early in the afternoon
- Need stimulants like caffeine in order to stay focused and have enough energy to get throughout the day.
- Reliance on an alarm clock to get up at a specific time each day
- Feeling exhausted early in the evening but getting a jolt of energy between 9PM and Midnight.
UNDERSTANDING SLEEP TENDENCIES: ARE YOU A LARK, OWL, OR HUMMINGBIRD
There’s a sleep concept out there known as Lark, Owl, or Hummingbird. Each one represents a different style or preference towards a specific sleeping pattern.
LARK: Studies show that about 10% of the population is an early riser. Larks typically get tired a littler earlier than most in the evening and prefer getting up early. Larks usually feel energized shortly after waking and are eager to start their day. They usually are most productive at the early morning hours and enjoy participating in most activities (like exercise) at this time.
More effective sleeping for a Lark includes:
Eliminating as much light as possible in the room. This includes using blackout curtains for windows. Turning off all electronic equipment (computer, phone, even the alarm clock)
OWL: About 20% of the population is considered an Owl. These folks enjoying staying up late (usually past midnight) and are more inclined to sleep in or just enjoy sleeping altogether. Owls are most productive and feel more alert in the evening hours and enjoy participating in most activities (like exercise) during these hours.
More effective sleeping for an Owl includes:
- Using natural light to wake you up at an earlier hour by keeping the blinds or curtains open on windows.
- Immediately upon rising heading outside for a quick stretch or brief workout.
- Setting a consistent bedtime in the evening no later than 11pm (this may take some getting used to).
HUMMINGBIRD: That leaves the rest of us as Hummingbirds. These people are found somewhere in the middle.
Note: There have been studies shown that sleep characteristics such as these may be related to your genes.
ENGINEERING A PERFECT NIGHTS SLEEP
Now that you understand what sleep is, the benefits of sleep, issues of the sleep deprived, and what sleeping tendencies you may have how can you go beast mode on your ZZZZZ’s
Make Sleep A Priority: I know this may sound tedious to some and a few of you may even be thinking schedules just aren’t your thing but just like there is a need to CREATE to workout you’ll need to CREATE time to sleep.
Trying to find time for anything almost never works in todays busy society. You probably have more on your plate, more responsibilities, more work and family obligations than ever before.
What is tomorrow looking like for you from the minute you wake up until the the last thing you’ll need to get done when you get home?
- Set a specific bedtime and stick with it.
- Get to bed no later than 11PM
- Allow for a 30 minute buffer before bedtime where you do absolutely nothing (no Facebook, email, work, etc..). This will give your body a chance to unwind and relax.
Set A Consistent Time & Stick With It: If bedtime is 11PM That means that 10:30PM is your buffer zone. Something I picked up from Charlie’s book Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety is to shut it down no matter what you’re doing at this time.
So at 10:30PM whether in the middle of a conversation, responding to an email, or picking your nose – just stop and let your body and mind unwind.
Be consistent with this time so that your body begins to build a bedtime habit. Eventually you will start to notice your body naturally relaxing at this hour and becoming ready for slumber.
When It’s Light, Let There Be Light. When It’s Dark, Let There Be Dark: When the sun goes down you should also start to slow things down. This is one reason I’m a big fan of working out in the morning.
Going back to using circadian rhythms, when there is light, noise, and activity going on during the day our bodies recognize this and want to be awake getting shit done. As evening falls and the sun goes down and things begin to quiet so to does your body and mind. Don’t fight it and allow being to allow yourself to slow down as well.
Using relaxing techniques like:
- A warm bath
- Light reading (fiction)
- Breathing exercises
- If you are sensitive to light and find that the slightest bit of it will wake you up look into blackout curtains for your room, turning off all electronics, and using an eye mask and ear plugs if you need it.
Use Food To Your Benefit: I’ve spoken with some of you that mention hunger often keeps you from getting to bed or wakes you up at night.
The Bulletproof Exec, Dave Asprey is one of my favorite bloggers out there and he offers some great tips for using food to enhance your sleep.
Taking in a bit of healthy fats before bedtime can help you avoid any blood sugar swings and keep you satisfied. Dave recommends MCT Oil because it is converted to ketones and immediately used as fuel for the brain. However, a scoop of coconut or fish/krill oil will also do the trick.
I know you all are on the bulletproof coffee train by now. But make sure to keep any caffeine consumption coming in before 2:00PM. Personally, I have to go with Noon other wise it will affect my sleep. Coffee has a half-life of about 6-8 hours which means it’s still rocking in your system long after you’ve consumed it. Make it easier on your body to calm down and relax by having your last cup earlier in the day.
OTHER TIPS AND TRICKS
- Only use your bedroom to sleep (well, and to mmm hmmm )
- Keep your room as dark as possible by using back out curtains and keeping electronics like a computer, clocks, etc… out of there.
- Use ear plugs, a fan, or some other soothing sounds (try this app) as a way to keep any distracting noise out of the room
- You body rests best at when a room is cool so again a fan or keeping the thermostat set under 72 degrees should work. I like to sleep with a window open not only the hear th sounds but to also let in a cool breeze.
- Try exercise like Yoga, Tai Chi, or a stretching routine an hour or so before bed as a way to unwind and relax.
- 20 minute stop and be still sessions are the bomb. Take 20 minutes everyday after lunch to just lay down and be still. Close your eyes. Falling asleep isn’t necessarily the goal but instead just allowing yourself to relax and rest.
- Avoid consuming to much food or fluids right before bed. Trying to digest can disturb your sleep and too much liquid can keep you up all night running to the rest room.
- Flip your mattress or even think about getting a new one.
Don’t get frustrated if you still are having a tough time getting a good nights rest. Just like this exercise and nutrition thing sometimes results are out of your control but you can always focus on the behaviors that will most likely promote a great night of rest.
Start small if you have to. Trying to make dramatic changes over night can be pretty difficult. If you’re staying up until 2AM every evening then getting to bed by 11PM might be tough. Try an hour earlier, or even just 10 minutes earlier if you have to. Slowly get to bed a little bit earlier each week.
Most of us will feel best off of 7-9 hours of sleep consistently. How is your sleep schedule shaping up? Are you meeting your needs?